City Monster (Penguin Random House) Reza Farazmand's original graphic novel about a forest monster who wanted something different from life than his parents and thus moved to the city to make his mark on the world is a fun stoner comedy of sort, a parody of, well, of pretty much everyone, set in a world where monsters and the supernatural co-exist with real people.
The result, two four-issue arcs and an annual collected in a rather unnecessary trade paperback collection, is a rather mediocre read. For Justice League stories, these seem stunted and small, the sorts of arcs that might have appeared in JLA Classified or even one of the Justice League/Justice League Unlimited comic book spin-offs of the television cartoon, with a handful-sized line-up in stories that feel like inventory plots, fleshed out with too-current details added (Superman coming out as Clark Kent in Brian Michael Bendis' Superman books, Alfred's apparent death in Tom King's Batman) that make placing these anywhere in Snyder's narrative somewhere between difficult and impossible. (So best not to try, really.)
The artwork, supplied by pencil artists Doug Mahnke, Aaron Lopresti, Xermanico and Eddy Barrows, is all fairly strong, but the annual offers the only story with a single pencil artist drawing it in its entirety, so the book looks, reads and feels somewhat unsettled, too. The first story arc, for example, features first and fourth chapters penciled by Mahnke, with Lopresti drawing the two middle chapters; their styles could hardly be more different.
That first arc is "Invasion of The Supermen," in which we see—yet again—Earth invaded by a seemingly unstoppable army, all with Superman's powers. In this case, however, they aren't true Kryptonians, but Daxamites specially, artificially bred by The Eradicator to have all of the Daxamite/Kryptonian powers but none of their weaknesses. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash and Green Lantern John Stewart are the only Leaguers around (Aquaman will appear in the second arc, though; Martian Manhunter and Hawkgirl made some cover appearances amid the variant covers of these issues, but apparently their status near the end of Snyder's run, when these comics were being created, must have been ambiguous enough not to try to include them here).
Because Superman is vulnerable to magic and the Justice League's team of magic-users (that is, the Justice League Dark line-up) are conveniently "occupied with other matters," Batman goes to recruit Madame Xanadu to help repel the invaders.
I don't really remember where The Eradicator was last left after his last usage, but he can be an interesting villain, and is here; I also like his design here, which gives him black skin, accentuating the fact that he's a Kryptonian machine rather than a Kryptonian. Venditti, who has had plenty of experience writing John Stewart in the Green Lantern comics, brings back former Lantern Sodom Yat for a brief appearance, and creates a conflict between Stewart and Batman, who are both used to being in charge of their teams, and thus don't work together all that smoothly (It's an interesting dynamic that might have been explored by Snyder, but wasn't, and I suppose comes a little late, given how long this League has been together at this point).
The second story, "Cold War," feels a bit messier, as it involves The Spectre, whose status quo has been unsettled since the reboot (He's in his classic design here, though, rather than the fussier New 52 one). The five heroes from the first arc answer a distress call from shirtless Aquaman, and they find him fighting a bunch of a mythological monsters at the South Pole. Then their eyes all turn green and they start fighting one another, until they realize what's going on, thanks to some literal deus ex comic book-a: Seeking to end his career as the Spectre Force's human host, John Corrigan goes to Themyscira and asks the Amazons to lock him up in Tartarus. They do so, but this leads to The Spectre turning everyone in the world's eyes green, and leading to one of those "atrocity list" sequences that were cliche in the '90s.
Xermanico and Barrows alternate issues of this story, and though they are a better match stylistically then Mahnke and Lopresti are, it's not a great-looking story (and seems particularly disappointing given how strong the last Spectre story I read was, the one drawn by Kyle Hotz in Detective Comics).
The final story is the strongest of the lot. Batman finds a corpse in the Hall of Justice, and calls in Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash and Stewart to help him solve the extremely locked-room case, each of them bringing particular investigatory skills to the problem. Almost immediately, the Hall itself seems to turn against them, and they have to fight their way through their own defenses, relying on their teamwork to overcome threats too big for any one of them.
There are some fun moments in this—the way John takes out two security droids was the highlight of this collection for me, even cooler than Batman correcting Flash when he refers to a batarang as a boomerang—and although figuring out the identity of the "murderer" is dependent on one of the preceding stories, this is still the most complete story in the collection, and the best-looking, with consistent art from start to finish.
While it was refreshing to see the Justice League having adventures that weren't part of the multiversal shenanigans of Snyder's Justice vs. Doom mega-arc for once, it would have been more fun still to see what Venditti might have come up with were his short run not constrained by having to attempt some sort of quasi-adherence to Snyder's, and, perhaps, had he been given an artistic partner, rather than having whoever was available draw 20 pages here and there.
There wasn't much to presage it, just 1993's Savage Dragon/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Crossover #1 by Larsen and Michael Dooney and 1995's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Savage Dragon Crossover #1 by Dooney.
I was bewildered enough by the decision that I didn't read any of those comics, as by 1996 the Image-brand was more of a warning sign than anything else (I had dabbled in Spawn, tried The Maxx and sampled a few first issues and one-shots here and there, disliking everything to varying degrees), and I didn't know the new creative team of writer Gary Carlson and artist Frank Fosco (Larsen's contributions were limited to editing the series and providing the often repellent covers, like this one seemingly featuring Elektra's butt). I kept on eye on the series in comics shops, but as Carlson and Fosco began dramatically remodeling the Turtles physically, turning Donatello into a cyborg and blowing off part of Raphael's face to scar him, I checked out on the Turtles, and didn't check back in until Laird and Lawson launched volume four in 2001 (I'm still trying to track down back-issues of the later half of that series and its sister Tales of... series, so if you happen to run a shop and have any of these, do let me know...!)
IDW, which has been comics home of the Turtles since 2011, has quite gradually been collecting previous Turtles comics in various formats, and began republishing the 26-issue Image series under the title Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Urban Legends, although there was a catch: They were coloring it. I ignored that too, thinking that if I were really interested in tracking down volume 3, I could probably do it via back-issue bin for less than $3.99 a pop, and, being a snob, I obviously would prefer to read it in its original black-and-white than the new, colorized version (The few colorized versions of Mirage Turtles comics I've read from IDW were pretty poor, but that's more the fault of the endeavor itself as opposed to how well or how poorly it might have been executed).
IDW eventually collected their colorized single issues, and in August of 2019 we got Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Urban Legends Vol. 1, collecting the first half of the series (But not, I'm sorry to say, the Savage Dragon crossovers. I don't necessarily remember those being fantastic or anything—they fought gargoyles in one of them, which is the sum total of my memory of them—but near the end of this volume they will travel to Dragon's Chicago and Michaelangelo will seek to reconnect with a Savage Dragon character apparently met during one of those, and it might have been nice to have read that story...although the series starts with such a bang, that I can see why it wasn't included; maybe IDW will publish those and some of the TMNT appearances from within the pages of Savage Dragon as an Urban Legends Companion or something eventually...)
Now given that I had decided almost 25 years ago that this isn't something I would care for, I suppose it's not too terribly surprising that I liked it a lot more than I expected to. It's obviously not my favorite volume of the five, but I ended up liking it about as much as I did volume 2, and better than volume 5 (the current, IDW one), which took some foundational departures that colored all of the thousands of pages that followed (The current run, by Sophie Campbell and company, is pretty great though).
The greatest surprise, for me, was that this is a continuation of the first two, Mirage-published volumes of TMNT (I'm having trouble remembering if there are any direct references to volume two, or if things like Michaelangelo's basement apartment are from the end of volume one). Casey and April are together and live in the building April bought from Casey's mom, they are raising Shadow together as their daughter and the Turtles are serving as her babysitters and uncles, the Turtles have access to an air car that belonged to Zog (from "Return To New York"), Michaelangelo is a writer, etc.
I was also pretty taken with Fosco's art, which, at least in terms of design, is quite compatible with that of A.C. Farley, a Mirage artist who did a couple of issues of the first volume (#29 and #4), but whose Turtles are probably most familiar from his cover work ( #48-49, #51-62 and the seven volumes of The Collected Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). The figures of the title characters are all squat and powerful, they have rounded heads with extremely short, barely-there snouts, and his Splinter is extremely small and rat-like, as opposed to the more familiar shaggy, dog-like Splinter that Eastman draws.
The art suffers a bit from having been produced at Image in the mid-nineties, as is most notable in the many cyborg characters that populate the earliest issues—after which point Donatello becomes a cyborg—and many times Fosco seems more comfortable with the Turtles than with the human characters, as is perhaps most evident in his drawings of the toddler Shadow, who looks a bit more like an animated doll than a human child.
The coloring, by Adam Guzowski, doesn't do Fosco's art any favors, either; produced to be black-and-white, the art doesn't always take colors well, as some of the things that seem like they were meant to be seen in shadow or are left particularly abstract because they are in the distance can look unfinished and unfortunate in color (like, a round turtle head in the background is just a circle in black and white, but becomes a blob of green in color, and makes the brain ask why the artists couldn't fill in those details if another artist was going to fill in the detail of color...even if we know the answer, the brain still notices it).
As for the storyline, Carlson captures the spirit of the earliest bit of the first volume, the first 8-12 issues or so, in which things happened at a very swift clip, often overlapped, and there was relatively little connective tissue in terms of the milieu—one of the things that I think have helped the Turtles survive so long is that versatility of genre is built right into them. There's really no story too weird to involve their participation. Carlson also has Splinter captured immediately, and the Turtles go without their mentor for an extended period of time, as Eastman and Laird did early in the series, and again later during "City At War."
The book begins with the brothers in the midst of celebrating their 18th birthday, when their sewer lair is attacked by a group of very Image Comics-looking cyborgs, lead by a scantily-clad ninja wearing a bathing suit, a full-face mask and a cape: This is Pimiko, who is one of the recurring villains of the series...or at least the first half of it.
They kidnap Donatello and Splinter, and blow off part of Raphael's face in the battle; he'll resort to wearing one of Casey's old masks for much of this volume, although he will occasionally don an eyepatch. This seems to be Carlson and Fosco's attempts to differentiate the Turtles visually without having to resort to them wearing their initials on their belts. It's...certainly a solution.
As for Donatello, his body more-or-less dies during an escape attempt, but is rebuilt by the self-healing, smart technology in the cyborg who dies alongside him. So a simple glance at the cover will help you tell at least two of the Turtles apart from the other two, without your needing to even glance at their weapons.
Rescuing Splinter introduces a new villain, The Dragonlord, as well as a mutant, a short-lived Wolverine parody character and a shark mutant unimaginatively named Mako (I do like Larsen's cover featuring this guy, as he's in the act of attempting to swallow Michaelangelo whole). The rescue is only a partial success, though, as Splinter gets mutated into a bat and flies away.
Back in New York, Shadow is kidnapped by the mafia, as it turns out her real father was a scion of a mob family, and Michaelangelo has to rescue here. Leonardo goes to Midway City in search of Splinter, leading to a crossover with Image's Big Bang Comics (the Turtles appeared in Big Bang Comics #10, in a prequel to this particular issue, which is also a good candidate for IDW to collect into some sort of Urban Legends Companion, completing the Image appearances of the TMNT).
By the second half of this volume, Michaelangelo and Raphael end up in Chicago, reteaming with the Savage Dragon and meeting various members of that book's supporting cast, like Superman pastiche Vanguard and a lizard lady that Michaelangelo kisses—he also kisses a shape-changing humanoid appliance of Vanguards which takes on the weird-ass form of a mutant turtle woman with boobs. Mikey appear to have hit puberty at 18, as he spend a lot of time thinking and talking about women and, in the case of that lizard lady, pursuing her; this is, overall, probably the horniest Turtles volume. Fosco's art isn't particularly sexy, but there are certainly a lot of scantily-clad women, as Pimiko has an entire team of ninja women in bondage gear she commands and Splinter is bathed by a couple of nude servants of the Dragonlord at one point.
Overall, I don't know that I necessarily regret not reading this in the late '90s (money was tight back then!), but I was quite happy with it now. It's not a perfect collection—obviously I would have preferred it in black-and-white, and to read some of the comics like Big Bang and the Savage Dragon comics it alludes to—but I dug it enough that I bought a copy for my bookshelf after reading this, and am eagerly awaiting the second volume, which should collect the second half of the series.
This volume includes the covers for the Urban Legends series that Fosco and Eastman produced. I suppose it's interesting to see Eastman interpreting some of the events from the first official Turtles volume produced outside of Mirage Studios, although he mostly sticks to drawing Turtles on the covers, so we don't see much in the way of his interpretation of, say, The Dragonlord or Pimiko or The Savage Dragon.
REVIEWED:this original graphic novel, in which the villains are all friendly weirdos who live together at Arkham Apartments, owned by the Wayne Family. They teach young Bruce Wayne the value of imagination by dint of their madness, which is here portrayed more as eccentricity than various psychoses.
Here she and co-writer Kevin Panetta introduce Katy and her sister into the "New Riverdale" era of Archie Comics, with Katy temporarily moving to town before moving again to New York City. Given the poor performance of the Katy Keene TV show, I suspect this won't lead to a new Katy Keene ongoing or miniseries from the publisher. Laura Braga draws, and does he usual fine job.
this collection of Justice League comics was the inclusion of an issue of Steve Vance and John Delaney's Adventures in the DC Universe, a late-nineties attempt to do for the rest of the DC Universe what Batman Adventures and Superman Adventures did for their respective corners of the DCU. Many of those stories were very much of their time, but they were also very good, and offered great, all-ages introductions to characters like Superboy, Impulse, Captain Marvel and two generations of the Green Lantern/Green Arrow team-up, as well as pre-figuring the animated Justice League (which here had the same line-up as the first JLA arc, so no Hawkgirl or John Stewart).
Reading this collection—one story of which I had previously bought and read—made me really want an Adventures in the DC Universe collection, although these Justice League Unlimited ones are a lot of fun, and I liked that two of the odder characters included in the cartoon were given some attention here: The Shining Knight and The Vigilante are each the focal characters of a story.
this third and final volume of Masumi Kaneda and Ban Magami's Transformers manga and the previous ones, but the one that sticks with me the most is the conclusion of one storyline wherein the heroes learn just why it is that the Decepticons have been so villainous, and it turns out they have a very good reasoning behind their bad acts, and peace is finally achieved. And then the very next story has them in conflict again, because peace would make for weird Transformers comics, you know?